As a fairly new runner starting when I was 45, running started as an escape for me. An opportunity to turn off the real world, where things in my life were headed in a completely different direction. As I tried to escape, my new reality was one I could have never imagined. Running afforded me the unconditional support of people who inspired me. Ordinary people doing amazing things. People with goals, and sights set on big things. Big races. Big dreams. I watched as they worked towards them, with a determination and drive that motivated me. Soon I began to find myself addicted, and a bit surprised. My children became involved and I had a network of supported, motivated and determined people who said things like, “What are you training for next?” It all got me thinking and I realized that I could do these things.
A few months ago, after a series of health and personal setbacks, I received an email. A previous winner from our employee contest by New Balance had to withdraw, and my name had been selected as the winner of an entry into the New York City Marathon. I was gobsmacked. I had never run further than 21.1, and with my health issues, I wasn’t sure that I could. But after I thought about it for .03 seconds, and before I could change my mind, I responded, “Yes, thanks you!” and I began running with friends from my very first running group.
Training in different ways including rollerblading, soccer, running, swimming. Doing what I could. Determined, fierce, stubborn. Most days it was ugly. But it was happening. Along this journey, I had so much support. Thinking about it makes me emotional. Cards, mementos, journals, messages, hugs, all the love, support and encouragement, “No matter what happens, you’ve already won”.
At times, I have a hard time dealing with people who are ignorant, unkind, disrespectful, intolerant. These people make us forget that the world is filled with beauty, and beautiful spirited people.This happened to me in New York City. Again, I felt I had no business running that race. I got in, because my name was drawn, by luck, in a contest. But over the last month, the kind words, support, hugs, love, cards I received, was everything. I had people to lift me up and carry me forward, when in my head, I was so full of self-doubt.
After I arrived in New York City, I checked in, and my friend and I made our way up to the 44th floor, stepped out of the elevator, and were greeted by 2 people from New Balance, who were the most kind and helpful.Everywhere we went, people asked. People sent well wishes. Good luck. You can do this.
On Saturday, I met Greg Chrzan, from New Balance. It was like I’d known him my whole life. We talked about my journey, and he was so supportive. He made me feel like I belonged. I can say without doubt, he is one of the kindest, sweetest people. And I thank him for everything. From the early days, of sorting out bookings, race info, entry, right down to the swag, information and support, he has stood by me and supported me, when I had never met him, but even more so after I met him, with his messages of encouragement and support.
On marathon morning, I was half asleep, catching a shuttle at 5:30am with quick hugs, good lucks, and meeting more people. Then corralled into a warm tent to await start times. Met more amazingly kind people, who owned running stores in the States.It was race time. The energy and vibe was palpable. The music started, the cannon went off, and it began. The long painful ascent on the Verrazano Bridge (UGH!) No spectators, just miles of Bridge. And a whole City of running ahead.
Where did I fall in love with this race? I don’t know that I did. But, I found myself smitten with the experience. And the real love? The real love is for the people. The THOUSANDS of people in the boroughs. Running through Brooklyn. Feeling like you’re in a parade. Thousands of people cheering, supporting, making signs for strangers. Bands playing, high fives, beautiful people of all ages, races, colour, gender, culture. People supporting people. Lifting us up. Shouting love and encouragement to keep us going. Hundreds of people almost blocking the street. Creating a small tunnel to run through so you had to high five all of them. This is what sticks with me. The people. In every borough. Cowbells, tambourines, bands, noisemakers, signs, hugs, confetti. My goodness. It was unbelievable.
This race was never about a PB or impressive time. This was me vs. me. It was all about fierce determination, coupled with stubborn will. And it was damn hard. I almost gave up. The Queensboro Bridge nearly did me in . Right at the halfway point. I was close. But the people- encouraging, yelling, “you got this!”. Then, I saw my friend, Tara Otto at mile 16 right after that bridge, and I kept going as she cheered me on. I met so many beautiful people along that route. Who carried and lifted my spirit, because my body felt broken.
This is my New York City experience. I’d been there before, but this time it was about people and this race was powered by people. From start to finish. From far and wide. And coming back to literally hundreds of messages of love and support, from friends, family, co-workers, customers, I am so grateful for my New York City Marathon experience!